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How the UK lockdown has affected fitness habits

How the UK lockdown has affected fitness habits

As lockdown rules begin to ease, will training, fitness and mental wellbeing continue to be a major part of the 'new normal' daily routine?

On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson announced the first stage of the UK lockdown, prohibiting the population from leaving their houses unless for essential purposes. This period was later extended for a further three weeks and has severely impacted the lives of many and caused numerous negative side effects.

Some are struggling to sleep due to increased anxiety, whilst others are climbing the walls out of boredom and loneliness with just one hour of outdoor exercise permitted a day and minimum social interaction outside of their household.

However, on the other side of the spectrum, many are trying to make the most of this time. With no commuting, socialising, or little expectation to do anything but occupy themselves at home, many are turning to daily exercise in a bid to keep both their sanity and improve their health and wellbeing.

The F45 Training head office team shares its insights into how the UK lockdown has affected fitness habits and what this may mean for the future once lockdown laws are eased.

People are preparing themselves for life after lockdown
As we get closer to a potential relaxation of lockdown rules, many are starting to wonder what this will look like and how it will impact their day to day lives. Whilst some are yearning to leave their houses and socialise, others live in fear of it and dread the chance of being exposed to the virus, without any sense of control.

Beyond social distancing, protection masks and gloves, some individuals have begun to prepare themselves for life after lockdown by attempting to boost their immune system in order to fight off the deadly virus. Alongside making sure we are eating all of our body’s requirements for macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, one of the most common ways for people to do this is by enhancing their fitness regimes.

For example, those who were already fitness fanatics are increasing their workouts out of fear that they could slip out of their normal routine, and people who were gym goers perhaps once a week, now cannot skip a daily workout. This has been supported in a recent internal survey of F45 members, which revealed that 37 per cent were exercising five times a week or more during lockdown.

It is evident that training has been hugely impacted by the UK lockdown, as people are now making it their mission to either maintain or start a workout regime in order to ensure that they come out of the lockdown fighting fit as well as helping to manage stress levels and stay positive.

With the plethora of online fitness content and challenges available from live workouts from individual F45 studios and other fitness facilities to app-based offerings such as the F45 Challenge app, fitness has conversely become more accessible and popular than ever whilst everyone is cooped up in the confines of their homes. Many have also taken to the streets to pound the pavements and enjoy scenic bike rides, making the most of their allocated one hour of exercise a day, completing Couch to 5k challenges as well as raising money for the NHS.

“We can see that people are using exercise to create routine, consistency, progression, and as a grounding force for stress relief,” says Cassie Georgouras, co-owner of F45 Shepherds Bush. “Our members regularly express immense gratitude for our online programme as it provides something distinctive and clearly positive in a world of uncertainty.”

But will this last after lockdown? It depends. The world is so uncertain right now, that it’s difficult to say whether anything will last, but we expect this trajectory to continue, at least for the short-term as people see the mental and physical benefits of their new or enhanced regimes. Whilst there are so many digital developments from the fitness community readily available to them, they will find it difficult to shut off from the routine that has become their ‘new norm’.

Looking at this long-term, once people start to leave their houses and adapt to their new way of life after the outbreak, some of the ‘new’ fitness fans will likely start to slip away, as they have less time to exercise and more time to socialise. However, there will still be a core group that remains, who found exercise to be a form of retreat during this challenging time.

Consumers who wouldn’t normally exercise are becoming fitness fanatics
There is no doubt that everyone’s lives have changed as a result of this outbreak. Some for the better, and some for the worse. One of the biggest things to notice is that people have had more time to learn new skills and start a hobby that they never would have before, whilst also spending extra time with their loved ones, time that would usually have been taken up either at work, in a bar, or at the gym. 

As a result, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people who did not have a gym membership prior to the pandemic, that are now becoming avid fitness fanatics.

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, people who may ordinarily be nervous or embarrassed to go to the gym for the first time can feel comfortable working out in their home. Secondly, people are turning to exercise purely out of boredom and to find something to do, as well as burning off their increased alcohol and food consumption. Finally, with all the different digital fitness developments that have appeared as a result of gyms having to close, people no longer see an excuse not to sign themselves up. In addition, whilst feeling isolated there is the community aspect of training together via Instagram and Facebook Lives and Zoom which have become increasingly popular.

Cassie says: “Many studios use F45 as evidence of the fact that people seek more than just physical outcomes in the way that they choose their mode of fitness. They are looking for a community where people know their name, where they share similar goals and values, and where they can build their choice of fitness into their lifestyle through participating in social and fitness activities with their fellow members inside and outside the confines of the studio space”.

This situation has without a doubt opened the industry up to new consumers, especially those in their 50s who have started to appreciate the value and benefits of exercise and may have a little more time to spare as they are not commuting. It has made people realise that working out isn’t so bad and it’s given them something to relieve their boredom and deal with their anxiety, which they will struggle to give up when the lockdown ends.

People will invest more in health and wellbeing than ever before
During lockdown and when practising social distancing, there is no doubt that people have noticed considerable impacts on both their physical and mental wellbeing. Everything that we used to take for granted and do to help boost our general wellbeing has all of a sudden been taken away from us, from going out for dinner, enjoying the cinema and theatre, to visiting a friend. On top of this, we have experienced and lived through a serious health pandemic, resulting in the loss of loved ones, which has caused many to realise the importance of looking after their health and wellbeing.

“We have pivoted from a focus on an excess of material goods to valuing experiences, social connection and self-care,” says Cassie.

Whilst a lot of people will be impacted by the financial disruption caused by the outbreak and lockdown, it is important to realise that some will choose to spend their disposable income differently in the future. With social distancing predicted until a vaccine is found, going out to the pub, cinema, theatre or a restaurant may not appeal to many. Rather, they will choose to spend whatever available money they have and invest in their health and wellbeing so that they can continue to enjoy the benefits of their lockdown health and fitness regimes, whilst protecting themselves from the virus.

As an internal survey of F45 members revealed that 52 per cent missed group training, there is no expectation of memberships and participation to be negatively impacted by the pandemic. In fact, it is believed that people are chomping at the bit to get back to training at F45 again and are yearning to experience that sense of community.

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